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forth with equal conspicuity ? Nor need they be far sought; they lie along the highway of literature; they are the granite-materials of which the road is made. — Lord Byron affected the frequent use of quaint, obsolete, and outlandish terms; and by this artifice, no doubt, he occasionally rendered his style both gorgeous and venerable. But his chief strength lay in a despotic command over the most ordinary forms of speech. He has done more for common words than Dryden himself did; and the energy with which he employs them is the most remarkable, as well as the most exemplary, characteristic of his style in his best productions, such as the third and fourth Cantos of “ Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.”
Without any reference to the merits or faults of the following stanzas, they will strikingly exhibit the power of high pressure, which the noble writer could put in force to multiply thoughts with words, and so condense them, that scarcely one of the latter could be withdrawn, without extinguishing one of the former. — In the storm on the Lake of Geneva, he thus breaks out:
“ Sky, mountains, rivers, winds, lake, lightnings ! - Ye,
With night, and clouds, and thunder, and a soul
“ Could I embody and unbosom now
That which is most within me — could I wreak
Bear, know, feel, and yet breathe, — into one word
I conclude with an admirable illustration of this ill-understood subject, by a critic of no ordinary tact, which may be found in an article on “ Todd's Milton,” in the Quarterly Review, No. xxxvi.:
“Let us not hear a polished language blamed for the defects of those who know not how to put it forth. It must be wielded by the master before its true force can be known. The Philippics of Demosthenes were pronounced in the mother tongue of every one of his audience; but who among them could have answered him in a single sentence like his own? Who among them could have guessed what Greek could do, though they had spoken it all their lives, till they heard it from his lips ? The secret of using language, is to use it from a full
LORD Bacon distinguishes poetry under three heads: Narrative, Dramatic, and Parabolic. To these may be added a fourth, Miscellaneous, comprehending one half of the verse that is written, and which can hardly be said to come under any denomination less general. Without particular reference to these distinctions, I shall briefly notice several of the principal classes of poetry, according to the limits which must not here be exceeded.
Narrative poetry embraces all the varieties of metrical story-telling, from the lofty epic to the lowly ballad. In these (according to the licence of fiction) the author—knowing every thing that he chooses to know, and being privy to the inmost thoughts as well as the outward acts of his heroes - discloses to his reader (like one invisible being holding converse with another) the entire circumstances of all the events, single or in series, which he feigns or borrows. He thus makes his fable, as it is called, more complete through all its bearings, than any series of facts can be rendered, from the necessary imperfection of human testimony, the difficulty of discovering by contingent evidence more than has been verbally recorded of any thing that is past, and the impossibility of ever recovering the memory of what has once been lost - absolutely lost. For example,
– of the history of Rome, nothing more can be known at any future time, but what is extant at this hour in the relics of contemporary writers, or their successors, who have preserved what otherwise would have perished with the originals. Buried among the ruins of Herculaneum, or under the dust of centuries in monastic libraries, - documents containing intelligence, of which we are yet ignorant, may hereafter be brought to light; but that which is no longer registered on earth, though it may have decided the destinies of empires, is to us, in these later ages, the same as though it never had been. The quantity of error, conjecture, and misrepresentation, which abound in the early chronicles of all nations, and are not easily separable from those of the most enlightened periods, cause history to be, at best, a dubious authority to follow in its precedents for the conduct of either statesmen or philosophers.
Leo X. conceived the magnificent idea of forming a model of the city of Rome, as it stood in its glory, from a survey of the ruins of its palaces, temples, and amphitheatres, as they remained at his own day;-according to the style of each relic filling up the
elevation of the original structure. This task he committed to Raphael, who ardently undertook it, but died on the threshold of that renovated Rome; which thereafter fell into less reparable decay than its ancient prototype. Mr. Roscoe informs us, that the great artist presented a memorial to the Pontiff on this project, accompanied by a drawing of an entire edifice, completed according to the rules which he had laid down for the development of the whole.* What Raphael's memorial and specimen were to Rome under Augustus, history and its illustrations are to any given series of events; being only more or less imperfect in proportion as the dilapidated foundations, solitary columns, and mouldering walls of ancient edifices, furnish models and materials for raising upon them theoretical superstructures to represent what they were, but which in reality are but what they might have been. I would not disparage the most valuable inheritance bequeathed to us by our fathers in the chronicles and traditions of those periods in which they lived. But such is the task of him who sits down to compile the annals of any people; out of their ruins, he has to build their
* Raphael, in this memorial, observes :- “Having been commissioned by your Holiness, to make a design of ancient Rome, so far as it can be discovered in what now remains, with all the edifices of which such ruins yet appear as may enable us infallibly to ascertain what they originally were, and to supply such parts as have been wholly destroyed by making them correspond with those that yet exist; — I have used every possible exertion, that I might give you full satisfaction, and convey a perfect idea on the subject."